Mar 9, 2022 - COVID

La Shish Kabob owner and son on trial for PPP fraud

la shish kabob

Photo: Emma Way/Axios

La Shish Kabob owner Izzat Freitekh and his son Tarik are on trial this week on charges related to more than $1.7 million in PPP money.

Flashback: In December 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte charged the Freitekhs with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of false statements.

  • The office said then it had already recovered $1.3 million in funds.

Why it matters: The case’s importance stretches far beyond one small business in Charlotte. It could continue to set the tone for how other cases of PPP fraud are decided here and across the U.S., as Queen City News (formerly Fox 46) reported earlier this week.

The intrigue: The Freitekhs have assembled a loyal audience on social media to defend them at every turn.

  • Izzat and Tarik have maintained their innocence throughout: “… the whole world is going to know the truth and justice will prevail,” Tarik told Queen City News.

What to watch: The case continues, and we’ll be watching for a verdict in the coming days or weeks.

Zoom out: President Biden made a pointed reference to pandemic relief money fraud in his State of the Union address last week, suggesting there are more cases to come as his Justice Department names a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud, Axios reports.

  • The Paycheck Protection Program aimed to provide forgivable loans for American businesses hurt financially during the pandemic.
  • The first person charged with COVID relief loan fraud was a restaurant owner in Massachusetts who was sentenced to 56 months in federal prison.

1 big number to go: Since the pandemic, there have been over 676,167 reports amounting to $676 million in coronavirus-related fraud loss in the U.S., according to Federal Trade Commission‘s dashboard.

[Go deeper: Half of the pandemic’s unemployment money may have been stolen]

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